Fishing instructor Johnny Wilkins, 46, has a monumental task ahead of him. On the morning of July 5 he will head down to the Lake View Nature Center, set up his gear, and fish for the next 24 hours straight. His goal is to unseat the previous world record for the most fish caught in one day with a rod. That honor is held by Jeff Kolodzinzki, who spent a comparable 24-hour period casting for bluegills in Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka and ended up with a mind-boggling 2,649 recorded catches, the number that Wilkins has to beat. Reportedly Kolodzinzki used only a lawn chair, a mound of live maggots, and a cane pole. Similarly, Wilkins plans on going low-tech.
“I’ll be using much the same gear as George Washington did,” Wilkins told OutdoorHub. “I will be using just a pole, line, hook and bait. It’s a pretty straightforward setup that anybody can get .”
Wilkins is the founder of the Chicago Fishing School and a top-tier angler in his own right. He had previously competed in three World Championships for Team USA and is a master of technique. While most anglers may feel intimidated by the challenge (which will require catching roughly two fish per minute), Wilkins has plenty of experience under his belt. His personal best in a non-competition setting was 203 fish caught in 30 minutes, more than six fish per minute.
“I’m motivated because I want to see more people fishing and using their local parks and urban areas,” Wilkins said. “I want to see people fish closer to home and use gear that match. Sometimes people want to fish monster bass or walleye but there simply isn’t any there, so you have to use lighter lines to catch local fish. I want to show people they don’t need a boat or specialized gear to fish and to fish well.”
This will be the angler’s latest attempt to promote awareness of the area’s prime fishing grounds. Wilkins was born in a Chicago suburb and has been fishing near the city all his life. Along with teaching anglers-in-training and running a local fishing club, Wilkins enjoys speaking in seminars.
For this task, he will be fishing from the shore. A single fish can be caught multiple times, as there is no way to prevent a individual fish from taking Wilkin’s bait several times. The fish itself will be released as soon as caught and Wilkins will take every care to not harm them, especially the small bluegills which are susceptible to hook-inflicted injuries.
“One challenge I have is to protect all those fish,” Wilkins said. “Any little injury could put the small fish into shock so handling them gently and putting them back in the water quickly is important. I generally have a greater than 99 percent handling success rate, but it will be very embarrassing if I hurt a bunch of fish in a nature center, which is a public pond.”
The world record attempt will raise funds for Ronald McDonald House and Wounded Warrior Project.
Image courtesy Johnny Wilkins